Serious Car Crash Kills One Teen And Injures Another

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A 17-year-old boy died after a 16-year-old driver apparently lost control of his vehicle.

The 16-year-old boy, whose name was not released, may have been speeding when he ran off the road on Six Mile Highway near Madden Bridge Road, not far from Central. The car launched into a culvert and then overturned. 17-year-old Dillon McCade Ridgeway, of Six Mile, was ejected from the vehicle and declared dead at the scene. Mr. Ridgeway, a junior at Daniel High School, was enrolled in the Pickens County Public Safety Program and planned to be a firefighter.

School officials said that grief counsellors would be available to assist those in need.

First Party Liability in Car Crash Cases

Speed is a primary or other factor in many of the fatal collisions which occur on South Carolina roadways, because excessive velocity has an effect before, during, and after the crash, so it affects both causation and damages in negligence cases.

Excessive velocity significantly affects stopping time, which is reaction time (the window when a driver sees a hazard, moves his or her foot from the accelerator to the brake,and applies the brake) plus braking time (how far the car travels after the driver applies the brakes). There is a multiplying effect. At 30 mph, stopping time is about six car lengths, but at 50 mph, stopping time more than doubles, to thirteen car lengths.

A similar effect occurs when speeding drivers steer their vehicles. Many times, they oversteer around curves; because the higher the speed, the more the steering wheel moves the car’s wheels. After oversteering, they often overcorrect, and that causes loss of control.

According to Newton’s Second Physical Law, speed multiplies the force in collisions. The scientific formula — a=Fnet/m — is far too technical for most civil lawyers to comprehend. However, the impact on car crashes is obvious. Many low-speed crashes are basically “fender benders” which do not cause serious injury, but if that same crash happens at higher speeds, at least one victim is nearly always seriously hurt or killed, especially if the victim happens to be a bicyclist or pedestrian.

There are actually two collisions in most serious wrecks: the external one when one vehicle hits another vehicle or another fixed object, and the internal one, when loose objects inside the car become high-speed missiles, since they keep moving at the same speed until they too collide with fixed objects. That second crash is what causes most head injuries and other personal injuries.

With regard to speed, the duty of reasonable care varies. For example, drivers should slow down if there are adverse environmental conditions, like rain or darkness. Also, younger drivers are usually less experienced and therefore less able to control vehicles. The driver’s age affects both first and third party liability.

Third Party Liability in Car Crash Cases

Many South Carolina drivers are not financially responsible. The Palmetto State has one of the higher percentages of uninsured drivers. Moreover, the insurance minimum amount is rather low, so many insured drivers do not have enough coverage to pay the victim’s damages. In situations like these, third party liability is often a difference-maker, simply because it creates another source of recovery for victims.

Persons under 18 cannot own property in South Carolina, so teen drivers always operate someone else’s vehicle; in most cases, a parent owns the car. The family purpose doctrine often holds parents liable for damages if their minor children cause damages in a jointly-used vehicle. Liability attaches if:

  • The third-party defendant is the head of the family and owns the vehicle that the tortfeasor (negligent driver) used;
  • Anyone in the family can use the vehicle; and
  • The tortfeasor was negligent.

Ordinarily, the law caps third-party damages at $5,000. However, this cap does not apply if the third party defendant was also negligent. Such negligence includes allowing an incompetent driver to operate the vehicle. There is basically an irrefutable presumption that people who do not have drivers’ licenses are incompetent. In addition to strict liability, negligence can also be fact based; for example, a driver may be competent during the day but lack the experience to drive at night.

Damages Available

South Carolina is a tort state, so regardless of the underlying facts, car crash victims are always entitled to their:

  • Economic Damages: This compensation includes current and future lost wages, current and future medical expenses (which includes medical care, medical devices, and physical rehabilitation), and property damage. Property has both an economic and emotional value, and victims are entitled to both.
  • Noneconomic Damages: Victims may also receive compensation for pain and suffering, loss of consortium (contribution and companionship), emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment in life.

Additional punitive damages may be available as well, if the plaintiff proves, by clear and convincing evidence, that the tortfeasor intentionally disregarded the safety and property of other people. A damage cap may apply in some situations.

Of course, in a tort state like South Carolina, a claimant must prove the fault, also known as the negligence, or the responsible driver. Proving fault requires a thorough investigation into the cause of the accident and what went wrong, a process that is often characterized by interviewing witnesses, calling on experts, and assessing recorded data.

Rely On an Experienced Attorney

Car crashes normally involve complicated liability and damages questions. For a free consultation with a experienced car accident attorney in Charleston, contact David Aylor Law Offices. Home and hospital visits are available.

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